Kenya court blocks police deployment to Haiti

Source: BBC 

The Kenyan High Court has blocked the government from deploying police officers to fight gangs in Haiti.

The judge argued that the deployment would be illegal as the National Security Council lacks the legal authority to send police outside Kenya.

He added that the council can only deploy military, not police, for peacekeeping missions such as Haiti.

Last year, Kenya had volunteered to lead a multinational security force in Haiti to quell gang violence.

The judge further explained that Kenyan law only allows the government to deploy police officers to another country if a reciprocal agreement exists between Kenya and the host nation.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry last year asked the UN to urgently deploy a multinational force.

He said his government had been overwhelmed by gangs who controlled 80% of the capital, Port-au-Prince. 

The UN Security Council backed Kenya’s offer to lead the force and Kenyan lawmakers went on to approve the deployment.

In Haiti, the possible deployment had received mixed reactions from community members who have suffered at the hands of gangs. 

Laurent Uwumuremyi, the country director of Mercy Corp, told the BBC the mission had the potential to facilitate access to public infrastructure and address the humanitarian crisis.

He added though that some community members said Haiti did not need external interventions and that they saw it as a waste of money and time.

Ekuru Aukot, the Kenyan opposition leader who brought the case, said the court ruling was a win for the country, which could not afford to spare officers before tackling its own security challenges. 

Mr Aukot added that President William Ruto was only using the deployment to prop up his international image and seek favour with Western countries like the US. 

President Ruto said Kenya has an “impressive record” of participating in peace support missions around the world. 

He added that the deployment would enable officers to improve and sharpen their skills and experience in providing security. 

However, the suitability of Kenyan police for the deployment had raised concerns over possible human rights violations.

Nicole Widdersheim, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch, told the BBC they had documented Kenyan police violence, including murders, going back to 2013. 

She added that there has been a long history of international armed intervention in Haiti really doing “a lot of terrible things”.

The Kenyan government has denied any allegations of human rights violations by its officers.

One police officer who had already received two months of intensive training said he was “demoralised” by the ruling.

“I was prepared to go. I wanted to see how other police officers are doing their work and to add on to my experience.”

But he said he would use the training “to serve here in Kenya”.

This is the second major court ruling to go against Kenya’s government on the same day. The High Court also rejected a government attempt to overturn a block on a controversial housing levy.

It comes after Mr Ruto had recently criticised judges he said were corrupt for blocking government policy.

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